Gators look to keep Maten in check against rival Georgia

Florida forward Kevarrius Hayes goes up to defend against Mississippi State's Aric Holman during the Jan. 10 game at the O'Connell Center. Hayes and Co. will have their hands full dealing with Georgia's Yante Maten tonight. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

By leading the SEC in scoring and ranking second in rebounding, senior forward Yante Maten has done everything in his power to try to keep Georgia in the SEC title hunt.

To this point, though, the Bulldogs have been unable to get others to step up to support their best player.

Keeping the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Maten in check will be one of the top priorities for Florida when it plays at Georgia tonight.

Last season, Maten averaged 17 points and three rebounds in two meetings against the Gators. As one of three preseason co-SEC players of the year this season, Maten has lived up to expectations, averaging 19.6 points and 9.2 rebounds while posting nine double-doubles in 20 games.

“He’s a terrific player,” Florida coach Mike White said. “They’ve done a wonderful job with him. His development has been off the charts, consistent development over four years. He’s not only scoring it and rebounding it — those are the things that really jump out — but the way he leads and the intensity level he plays with, the confidence level he plays with and then defensively, he’s terrific as well.”

The burden will fall on junior center Kevarrius Hayes and redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone to try to keep Maten in check inside. Sophomore center Gorjok Gak and redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett will provide additional support off the bench.

“He’s definitely a load in the post and very skilled,” Hayes said. “We’re probably gonna try to limit his post touches, keep him as far out as possible, try not to let him catch it so deep.”

The Gators have at times double-teamed the post, which has left them vulnerable defending the 3-point line. White said the Gators will pick their spots when it comes to double-teaming Maten. Sometimes, White said, the Gators are still not rotating properly out of double teams or are doubling players when they aren’t supposed to be doubling them.

“Our communication has gotten better, but it’s still lacking at times,” White said.

Despite Maten’s production and post presence, Georgia has still struggled offensively this season, ranking last in the SEC in scoring (69.3 ppg), 12th in field goal percentage (.430) and 13th in 3-point field goal percentage (.316). The Bulldogs lack a proven perimeter scorer, which departed senior point guard JJ Frazier provided for them last season.

Defensively, though, Georgia has been strong this season, ranking third in the SEC in scoring defense (66.1 ppg allowed) and first in field goal percentage defense (.387).

“Whether it’s zone or man (defense), they’re really sound,” White said. “They’re really strong. They’re tough. They all move their feet really well. I’d like to know exactly what they do every day because I think they’re terrific. We have a lot of respect for their program. They guard as well as anybody.”

Florida, which dropped to No. 23 in this week’s AP poll, will be looking to avoid another letdown performance after knocking off Baylor 81-60 on Saturday in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. Last week, Florida followed up a 66-64 upset win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena with a 77-72 loss at home to South Carolina.

“We can’t be feeling good about ourselves right now,” White said. “We’ve got to go up there with an edge, a certain level of fear and anxiety that if we don’t play really well we’re not going to have a chance. I think that edge with this team starts on the defensive end …

“Offensively, we are who we are. I think we’ll go up there and play with some poise and we’ll share and move. The question is can we defend Georgia and can we rebound with Georgia?”


Who: No. 23 Florida Gators (15-6, 6-2 SEC) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (12-8, 3-5 SEC)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


G KeVaughn Allen;6-2;Jr.;11.4  ppg; 2.3 rpg

G Chris Chiozza;6-0; Sr.;12.6 ppg;6.3 apg

G Egor Koulechov;6-5; GSr.;14.5 ppg;7.2 rpg

F Keith Stone;6-8; RSo.;8.1 ppg;3.7 rpg

C Kevarrius Hayes;6-9; Jr.;5.4 ppg;5.5 rpg


G Juwan Parker; 6-4;Sr.;8.4 ppg;3.5 rpg

G William Jackson III;6-4;Jr.;9.5 ppg;3.7 apg

F Rayshaun Hammonds;6-8;Fr.;6.6 ppg;5.1 rpg

F Derek Ogbeide;6-8;Jr.;7.4 ppg;5.9 rpg

F Yante Maten;6-8;Sr.;19.6 ppg;9.2 rpg

Notes: Florida is 113-100 all-time against Georgia, a series that dates back to 1923-24. The Gators are 4-0 against the Bulldogs under Mike White. UF has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two schools. …. Florida is 3-1 in true road games this season and 6-3 in games away from the O’Connell Center. “When we are on the road, it’s more of we have each other,” Florida junior center Kevarrius Hayes said. “We have to depend on each other, each other’s energy and all of us to play well.” …. Hayes ranks fourth in the SEC in blocked shots at 2.3 per game. The Gators are 4-0 when Hayes blocks four or more shots in a game. …  Florida leads the SEC in turnover margin (plus-4.5) while ranking second in 3-pointers per game (9.7). … Florida graduate transfer guard Egor Koulechov leads the SEC in free throw percentage at 91.8 percent. Koulechov also has a seven-game string of grabbing 8 or more rebounds, matching a mark last set by Joakim Noah from March 10-31, 2007. … Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza has posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 71-12 over his last 11 games. … Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring at 16.5 ppg and has scored in double figures in eight straight games. Hudson has been UF’s most consistent scorer, reaching double figures in 19 of 21 games this season. … Georgia is looking to snap a three-game losing streak. … The Bulldogs are 8-2 at home this season, having posted wins over Alabama, Ole Miss, Temple and Georgia Tech. … The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Florida freshman guard Deaundrae Ballard, an Atlanta native who went to Southwest Christian High School. Ballard is averaging 5.2 points and 2.1 rebounds off the bench for the Gators this season.

— Kevin Brockway


  1. The incessant ‘coach speak’ from Ms. White gets really annoying. This will be another game where favored Florida goes down — they can’t help themselves, they’re as soft as butter. This will be their seventh loss and they will have been favored in every game except the one vs. God’s team, Duke! Mikelina White’s ledger would look so much better if almost all of the losses were as underdogs. And, speaking of Egbunu, if granted an extra year, he would have to come back unless he wants to play in Istanbul or Lithuania. He certainly cannot make any NBA roster. He can do one thing — block shots — and those types of players are a dime a dozen. Georgia 73, Florida 64

  2. Tell the sound man that Coach White’s Mic needs to be turned up, I could hear Kevin real well but has to wear earbuds to hear what Coach White was saying. Kevin I really enjoy reading your articles and listening to your podcast. Keep up the good work.
    Coach White has done a Great job with this team. The team has been missing our Superman Center all year as well as two other bigs. I haven’t noticed anyone making excuses, they ( the team) just rolled up Their sleeves and made lemonade out of the lemons they were delt.
    Goooooooo Gators…. Gators win another road game ..Gators 79 Daws 66.

  3. Bad game for everyone, which is becoming more of the norm for some reason. Coach White needs to call more timeouts when we are taking horrible shots. This would at least calm everyone down and get them in a set play to get them back on track. He seems to let them play even when they look so disorganized. The Russian also has to play better, he’s been off the last few games. We also need our BIGS back badly or it’s ride or die with the 3 and we see how that has turned out for us.

  4. Disgusting that’s all you can say about this game. As long as the other team doesn’t have an active center, we can play beautiful basketball. BUT if the other team has an active center, we just fall to pieces, we just can’t defend the paint, It seems as though we are a different team. To go to Georgia and get beaten by 12 points by an inferior team, is just plain disgusting. Now we should fall out sight, we don’t belong in the top 25. Not as long as we keep playing one good game and one bad game. That’s not going to cut it!!!!!!.

  5. Almost nailed the final score. See above. Knew this bunch was an imposter and a bunch of pussies. This is the sixth game Miss White has lost this season as a FAVORITE! Alabama will make it number seven on Saturday — in Gainesville! Too bad they will waste being selected for the Dance. They go out in the first round.

  6. Boyfriend. I am professionally concerned. I see mental illness virtually daily in my medical practice. You need to see the Psychiatrist I recommended in Daytona. Dr. Winters. Best of luck young fellow. The next step is up to you.

    • I’m old, almost 70. Being treated for hbp, cholesterol, psoriasis, eczema and seborrheic keratosis. Lately, have had discomfort right above the ankle (causes limp) and dull rectal ache after bowel movements. Possible that the rectal ache could be Gators-related? If you are in the Orlando area, could I drive down and see you? Are you in the UnitedHealthcare network?